Entertainment, Politics School Board: Igbani’s Out May 9, 2005 Waldo Jaquith 7 Comments WINA: Bill Igbani is out, leaving Peggy Van Yahres as the only expiring member who may seek re-appointment by City Council.
7 thoughts on “School Board: Igbani’s Out”
Okay, here’s a thought… the school board holds it’s public meetings at the Charlottesville High School Library.. right? Why do they insist on cramming people in that small uncomfortable space, when they’ve got that big auditorium in the back of the high school? “Set up” and “Clean up” would not vary at all between the two locations. However the auditorium would’ve been able to accommodate some of those larger crowds more easily.
As for the topic at hand, I think a few people are doing the honorable thing by stepping down, the rest of the school board should follow their lead.
I agree about using the Performing Arts Center; I think the library is used for historic reasons when turnout was low. I suppose that was one nice side effect of Griffin: she motivated people to get involved!
The question of ‘honor’ in resignation: I suppose that depends, to some degree, on whether one feels the person stepping down agreed with one’s own ‘side of the argument.’ I personally don’t think Van Yahres ought to step down; as far as I’m concerned, she was a lone voice of reason who bravely spoke up early on, actions for which she will be viewed as a racist for the rest of her political life here in C’ville. I am glad Dr. Igbani and Mr. Brown stepped down, not because it was ‘honorable’ so much as because they appeared to be on the wrong side of the issue, as far as I can tell. In that same vein, I’d like to see Wiggins and Smith resign, even though their terms aren’t up yet. However, without a public airing of what went on in those closed meetings, and some idea of how the search process really worked, this is all speculation.
I suppose there’s something generally positive about setting up a ‘clean slate’, but at the same time, I think we will suffer from too much turnover if they resign en masse. There is a need for a board with experience with the issues confronting the system. Indeed, I don’t think most of the general public really understands anything about how public education really works, and what the issues are they confront. AYP, accreditation, the ‘gap’, SOLs & NCLB are all ‘tricky’ in the details of the way they operate. Too many politicians (from GWB to Rick Turner) grossly oversimplify the issues, leading people places that accomplish absolutely nothing. It takes time for bright people from outside the system to come up to speed on these issues. There are members of our community of all flavors who are perfectly able to grasp these things and some who have the political skill to do something.
One of the biggest failures of the current board, in my view, is their apparently poor grasp of what the problems are that face the system, or inability to really tackle them. If I were a betting person, I’d put my money on the latter. I’d say Brown and Igbani are caught between a rock and a hard place: a grasp of the real problems, and a tacit recognition that the answers don’t fit the framework as understood and promoted by people like Turner. That means they can either keep chasing after imaginary problems, ignoring the real issues, or angering their constituency. Van Yahres is not in the same thankless position.
Of course, it’s not an elected board, so this understanding of ‘constituency’ requires reading between the lines a bit, but the political backing comes by proxy via the council. Although I think there would be problems with an elected board (ie, it should not be ‘at large’ like council – we need a ward system in this city), I think that’s the right direction to go. It would force a bit more accountability on board members.
Can we please stop demanding full disclosure of the closed door meetings? They have closed door meetings because they’re required to by law. They don’t tell us what went on at them because they’re not allowed to by law. If you disagree with the laws, complain about the state & federal governments that create the strictures — not the people following them.
I fully recognize and support that there need to be closed door meetings for some things – and that certainly includes a number of personnel matters. However, using that as a dodge for moving all potentially controversial discussion out of the public eye is not acceptable!
I don’t for one minute believe the state or federal government (or the legal counsel) was sitting there telling the board to shut up and go into closed session when discussing the general characteristics and guidelines for the search. Griffin was a big surprise to a lot of people in this city – not even on the radar a couple of months before she came. I am digging through the minutes from last year looking for just how much information was publicly available.
Where is the law that says the board can’t publicly air:
– the search criteria given to the head-hunters.
– the resumes of a list of candidates.
BTW – my point was not a demand for public disclosure of individual board members’ candidate scoring than for making it clear that I was guessing at something that I know nothing about in fact. Excuse me for throwing in an honest disclaimer.
The search that produced Griffin was deliberately different from the search two years before which produced — no one! We lost all three top candidates because we’d publicly aired our preferences. That boondoggle resulted in City Council not renewing any of the school board members whose terms were up after the search failure. For the Griffin search the school board hired professionals to conduct the search, had dozens of meetings to determine criteria from a wide variety of “stakeholders” (I was one of them), and didn’t announce preferences prior to actually hiring someone so as not to scare them off. Increasingly I’m feeling that Charlottesville is getting what it deserves — a school board unable to conduct any business because vocal bits from all sorts of segments of the community relentlessly short-circuit it.
I recall that failed search well – my take differs slightly: yes the candidates were scared off, for two reasons:
– in the most recent case, the first choice was announced before they had accepted. The board should have kept it’s mouth shut until they had a sealed deal. The #2 & #3 choices wouldn’t have gotten pissed and pulled out, knowing they weren’t first choice! This was not a process error, it was a tactical blunder.
– Yes, there was a more public process – the way to handle controversy is to reach consensus about what direction the schools want to move in and then finding a super who will pursue that vision. It is not appropriate to handle controversy by hiding it from public view! I submit that the candidates who were uncomfortable with the tensions in C’ville were inherently poorly suited to running the system here – what are you going to do, trick them into coming here by hiding the challenges from them?
Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps these boondoggles were the result of poorly resolved policy or ‘vision’ that did not have buy-in from a majority of the community? There will always be cranks and some small minority who will be upset unless they get their personal choice. However, a reasonable majority can be found to support general goals, such as:
– closing the acheivement gap.
– increasing AYP.
– eventually meeting the SOL pass rates required for a good rating.
I’ll say again: we need to build a clear public consensus supported by a majority, and then procede publicly; we should not try to avoid tough situations by hiding them from the public. There is no reason a pool (3-5) of candidates can’t be publicly aired in the local media, until the board and any ‘stakeholder’ committees get plenty of feedback. Once that’s done, the board can rank them in closed session and not make any further public statements until they’ve picked one and signed a contract with them!
If the public has had an opportunity to speak up and provide the board with feedback, then a lot of this recent unhappiness can be avoided. If a candidate has serious negatives or positives, the board can weigh that when making the final decision.
About the use of the PAC–It is my understanding that the PAC is technically separate from the high school–it is a “city” building, so it does not fall under the governance of the high school or necessarily the schools. Trying to book it for school events can be difficult. So as to why they don’t use the PAC it is probably because it’s a hassle to get. Also, the CHS media center has a dedicated place for the school board, albeit, not a very large or inviting one. If they rearranged the book cases so you could see past the career center room then it might work better.
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